Thanks to improved manufacturing technology, the problem of counterfeit coins is significant and increasing. Reputable organizations such as Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG) and the American Numismatic Association (ANA) are issuing warnings to collectors and dealers about skillfully made replicas masquerading as authentic coins, sometimes packaged in bogus slabs which falsely represent them as authenticated by a legitimate grading service.
“It is clear there is an increase in the types of fakes sold by unscrupulous dealers,” said PNG President Dana Samuelson. “These sales of counterfeit coins are potentially a multi-million dollar problem for the public. There’s an old saying that can help buyers avoid problems: If you don’t know coins, you better know your dealer.”
These coins are primarily produced in China, where there is no legal barrier to manufacturing replica coins. A quick online search will locate plenty of coins– Krugerrands, Canadian Maple Leaves, and antique rarities–identified clearly as replicas, on the market for just a few dollars. However, in the hands of unscrupulous people, they are often subsequently and fraudulently sold as the genuine article. Replica ingots are also on the market.
“It is imperative that collectors, investors and the general public deal only with reputable, knowledgeable experts who offer a guarantee of authenticity,” says Samuelson.
Legitimate mints are changing designs and technology to address the problem. Micro-engraving has been added to Canadian Maple Leaf coins as a security device, and the flat field of the silver Maple Leaf was changed, now sporting finely cut radial lines. Microscopic images have been added to silver Kangaroo coins by the Perth Mint in Western Australia.
In many cases, the counterfeits are made from a metal like tungsten, then plated with a small quantity of gold–enabling them to pass the acid test. A well-made fake will also weigh the same as its original source coin, making it that much more convincing.
With counterfeit slabs and barcodes, the consumer is further deceived. One has to call the grading number and verify the registration number directly with them.
Now more than ever, it’s crucial to shop at a reputable dealer with a history in the business. Collectors can protect themselves by buying from a company that guarantees what they sell, and will stand behind it should a problem arise.